Telecoms minister presents three options for cellcos’ future

3 Oct 2014

Alongside the extension of the private management contracts of state-owned cellcos Touch and Alfa for an undefined period, Lebanese telecoms minister Boutros Harb yesterday (2 October 2014) presented three options to the cabinet regarding the future of Lebanon’s mobile networks, the Daily Star reported. ‘The minister extended the contract with us for an unlimited period until he returns with a clear answer from the cabinet on his new proposals,’ a spokesperson for Alfa (managed by Egypt’s Orascom Telecom Media & Technology Holding) told the paper on the day of contract expiry (30 September), while Kuwait-based Zain Group’s contract for managing Touch was also extended on the expiry date. Harb has asked fellow ministers to opt for one of the following options: renew the contracts with the existing management firms under new conditions; launch a new tender open to prospective international market entrants; or allow the telecoms ministry to manage the mobile networks itself (keeping on all the existing staff at Touch and Alfa except ‘management’). The cellular networks generate over USD1.5 billion in annual combined revenue for the treasury, making it the third largest source of state income after customs and VAT, but Touch and Alfa have been criticised for poor quality mobile connections.